Wroughton wine tasting
Blind leading the blind...
We are all guilty of heading to the same spot in the wine aisle and sticking to what we know and like... but how much attention do we really give our palate; are we drinking things we think we like just because its a certain grape, or we know its expensive?
Our blind tasting in Wroughton set out to challenge our own prejudices.
Wine One - Asda Extra Special Pinot Grigio, £5.98
We started with a basic, fresh Pinot Grigio from Asda's extra special range. This wine is made in bulk in the Veneto region of Italy and is fairly neutral. The cooler climate of Northern Italy retains a fair amount of acidity in the grape, and the stainless steel tanks used for fermentation (as opposed to barrels) retains a fruit flavour and keeps the wine light, crisp and lean.
The wine tasters could tell that the wine wasn't anything complex. "There's not much going on there," commented one after taking a sniff.
Average score out of ten: 3.25
Wine Two - Blind River Sauvignon Blanc, Majestic Wine, £11.99
The next wine was New Zealand's flagship grape, Sauvignon Blanc, which accounts for the majority
of production, especially in the Marlborough region. In contrast to the Pinot Grigio, this wine had a pungent aroma and intense flavours, which pleased the tasters. Some thought it was a slightly sweeter German wine; riesling was guessed at by a few.
Sauvignon Blanc grapes ripen early so are suited to the cool climate that retains the acidity and freshness. Sauvignon Blanc wines are produced in many places around the world; the Loire, South Africa, Chile.... but each will taste different due to the climate, weather, topography and winemaking techniques of each. The winemaker of Blind River has chosen to barrel ferment 10% of the grapes in French oak to add complexity, and this was noticeable in the slightly deeper colour and fuller feeling in the mouth.
This wine scored higher than the Pinot Grigio with an average score out of ten: 5.72
Wine Three - Vasse Felix Chardonnay, Majestic Wine, £15.99
Our next wine takes us to Western Australia, where the area of Margaret
River boasts many small boutique wine producers. Whilst the area is responsible for 3% of Australian wine, it produces 20% of the country's premium wines.
The area is on the coast, south of Perth where it enjoys a humid Mediterranean climate, cooled by fresh sea breezes that produce high quality fruit flavours in the grapes.
The Vasse Felix winery is Margaret River’s founding wine estate and was established in 1967. It acquired its name from a seaman called Thomas Vasse, who was believed to have drowned when swept overboard from his vessel in 1801. To bring luck to the winery, the word "Felix" was added, meaning "lucky". However, the grapes on the first vines planted were destroyed either by rot or got eaten by native birds, so a peregrine falcon was brought in to scare off the birds.
This also proved disastrous, as the peregrine flew off into the woods on its first release, never to return. The peregrine lives on as a depiction on the wine labels, and thankfully the winery is thriving in 2018.
This chardonnay is full bodied, having been fermented in french oak barriques (smaller than barrels to concentrate oak flavours better). The wine has been allowed to undergo its natural malolactic fermentation to produce buttery and toasty notes. Opinion was divided. For those that love an oaked chardonnay, this was bliss, but there were others who couldn't bear it.
Average score out of ten: 5.16
Wine four - Morrisons Pinot Noir, £4.65
Our cheapest wine of the night received appreciative noises as it was poured. It's fair to say there were more red wine fans in the room than white wine lovers, so a red wine was a welcome sight. Not knowing the wine was cheap, many loved the fruitiness of it.
Pinot Noir grapes are fussy, but do grow better in a cooler climate, even in the UK where they contribute to our many award winning sparkling wines.
This wine from Morrisons uses grapes from the Central Valley in Chile where it is easy to ripen the grapes. Wine production in this part of Chile focuses on inexpensive fruity wines, and along with pinot noir, Merlot is also widely grown.
This wine scored lowest of the reds, but still scored as highly as the chardonnay that was three times its price. Well done Morrisons!
Average score out of ten: 5.53
Wine Five - M&S Gold label Merlot, £7
From the Pays D'Oc area of the "South of France", this wine is made from 100% Merlot grapes. The South of France is warm and sunny climate where it can make a large volume of ripe fruity wines that offer good value for money.
There are different styles of merlot - when the grapes are picked early as they are in Bordeaux, they can give off more earthy vegetal flavours, whereas elsewhere the grapes are picked later so that the fruits get plummy.
"It's my favourite of the night," remarked one taster, "which is a good job as someone just gave me a bottle as a present."
This wine, from Marks and Spencer, has aged 25% of the grapes in American Oak and blended back into the remaining 75% of unoaked grapes. There was a very subtle kick of spice form the oak, but it wasn't very noticeable.
At £7, this was well received and many would be buying more.
Average score out of ten: 6.07
Wine Six - Kangarilla Road Cabernet Sauvignon, Majestic Wine, £13.99
Our most expensive red wine of the night is a Cabernet Sauvignon from Kangarilla Road; a small boutique winery in the up-and-coming McLaren Vale area. South of Adelaide, the vineyards are nestled in the foothills of the South Mount Lofty mountain ranges where the gully winds roll off the hills and the sea breezes produce climatic diversity. This serves to cool the grapes, especially at night time where the grapes can then retain their acidity.
The Cabernet Sauvignon grape has a thicker skin than the previous red wines, making the wine deeper in colour and fuller in body. The wine is a powerful and complex mix of pepper, earth and black fruit characters, with smooth tannins and a long finish.
This was well received by everyone, and scored the highest of the night. Many people said that they would buy it again.
Average score out of ten: 7.42
Everyone agreed the blind tasting was a great way to discover new wines. Whatsmore, we raised £180 towards Ellendune's future activities, which is fantastic!